Pre-Law Student Workshop: LSAT Preparation
as a Process
February 27, 2003
On Thursday February 27, 2003, pre-law students met
in Room 2065 of the Political Science Department for a workshop
on LSAT preparation. The workshop began with a presentation by Emma
Whitley, a peer pre-law advisor at UNM. Emma shared her experiences
and research on successful LSAT preparation. She provided handouts
and donated books for UNM's new Pre-Law Library.
Emma emphasized the importance of what she called
"home study," that is, studying on her own. She read books
on LSAT strategies and she worked through old LSATs. By working
on actual LSAT questions over and over (by using the old tests),
she was able to: a) identify her strengths and weaknesses; b) re-train
herself in areas of weakness so that she could anticipate and avoid
the mistakes she had been inclined to make; and c) pick up speed.
- while commercial preparation books are helpful introductory-level
readings, they should not be used to practice the test; the questions
in the commercial preparation books are easier than the actual
LSAT questions and can delude students into a false sense of security
(another student in the group confirmed Emma's statement);
- take old LSAT tests, buy a stop watch and time yourself, and
concentrate on accuracy as well as picking up speed;
- personalize the preparation; take time to assess how you learn
(circling, underlining, breaking down questions) and use that
self-knowledge to develop a test preparation strategy;
- join a study group, give/get support for staying focused and
self-disciplined in preparation; the study group will help keep
your motivation and self-discipline levels higher than you are
likely to be able to do on your own;
- expect the worst on the exam day in terms of distractions, annoying
events, stress, discomfort, poor lighting, etc.; Emma told us
that she consistently scored higher on her self-tests/practice-tests
than she did on the actual LSAT; the disparity in scores can be
due to nerves, noises, uncomfortable desks, annoying chatter from
fellow test-takers, etc.;
- start early: give yourself months to prepare for the LSAT and
don't underestimate yourself and your ability to improve your
score by hard work and focused study;
- treat preparation like a class--go to the library, turn off
the tv/radio, sit upright at a desk--because it is work
and you are in training.
Emma's handout outlined:
- the format, length, and scoring method of the LSAT;
- tips on each section (for example, being an "active reader"
in the reading comprehension section; remembering items like scope
- her personal experiences (for example, the importance of reminding
herself: "The LSAT is not just about how good you are at
any given section; it's about processing information quickly and
actively and moving on");
- her reflections on "in a perfect world, what to do differently"
(for example, she stressed that all students should start early,
early, early in preparing for the LSAT).
Following Emma's presentation, I underscored some additional points:
- LSAT preparation is a process. Choose classes which truly teach
you skills so that every class you take is "preparation
for the LSAT." Do a self-assessment by asking yourself: are
my classes helping me to improve my reading comprehension, analytical
reasoning, and logical reasoning skills? If not, why not take
- Don't confuse an outcome (a good grade) with an entire process
(skill development through classes over the course of 4 years
of undergraduate education). Expect more of yourself than good
grades alone; sometimes students can make As in classes without
actually pushing themselves to the next level of skill development.
. . don't let yourself fall into this snare.
- Try to plan your life so that you are peaking in LSAT preparation
in time for the June test (or October, if June is impossible).
Most importantly, however, take the LSAT only if/when you are
peaking in preparation.
- Taking the test early allows you to apply to law school early.
With record numbers of applications, applying early is more important
than ever. Think of it this way: apply (early) when all the seats
for your class are still open. . . not (late) when a portion of
the seats have already been filled by the early applicants.
- Educate yourself about the LSAT and LSAT preparation. If you
read nothing else, read Prof. Frank Homer's essay in the Preparing
For the LSAT section of this advisement web page.